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Rolex Made History with a Timepiece for Presidents. A Brief Intro into the World of the Day-Date, the Most Chameleonic Rolex Ever Produced

Naomi Ornstein & Paolo Gobbi
Fabio Santinelli

From its very first appearance on stage the Day-Date unquestionably became the emblem of timeless elegance. Possibly, it is one of the most recognizable models ever manufactured by Rolex due to its signature design elements: a day aperture across the top, a date window at 3 o’clock and the President bracelet exclusively designed for the timepiece at its launch. A well built and designed watch suited to just about any occasion. Nevertheless, when you ask the average Rolex enthusiasts to list out their favourites the Day-Date seems to come some way down the list…

But then why?

In keeping with its unique status in the Rolex catalogue, stainless steel is not an option. In fact, the Day-Date is presented exclusively in gold and platinum. This makes it quite expensive. Additionally, it has always been classified as the “old man’s watch” due to it being a very classic piece – you seldom see someone under the age of 40 wearing one. So whilst among collectors and aficionados it is a respected model, among the watch un-educated, or those who have the means and simply want to buy a nice dress watch, the Day-Date is truly popular. Thus little has been written about this model.

Besides representing the ultimate status timepiece, it is indisputably the most chameleonic Rolex due to the innumerable possible combinations given the wide variety of dials, case metals, decorated bezels and types of bracelets. Let us rewind our minds back to May 2015 when Phillips, in association with Bacs & Russo, put together some of the rarest Day-Dates ever made showing the world just how absolutely thrilling this watch can be with their “Glamorous Day-Date” auction (Check out all the results here).

As already mentioned before, the Day-Date is broadly considered as the most prestigious Rolex ever produced. Historically speaking, its birth can be traced back to the Basel Fair in 1956. Exclusively handcrafted in noble metals, clearly identifying the wealthy wrist adorned by this watch, the early versions sported thicker cases compared to those sported by the Datejust. Here above, one of the earliest pink gold versions bearing the reference 6511. The following models will definitely carry the Day-Date script at 12 o’clock, whilst the waterproof indication will disappear.

Between the ’70s and the ’80s, in order to meet the increasingly eclectic and demanding market requests, the Day-Date models started to offer a variety of coloured dials: enamel coated dials broadly referred to as “Lacquered Stella”, and the dégradé dials, distinguished by a centripetal gradual colour fade off. Portrayed here above is the spectacular Ref. 1802, nicknamed ‘Taxi Driver’, dressed in yellow gold livery and displaying a stunning saffron yellow “Stella” dial embellished with diamond hour markers. Pictured below are a yellow gold 18238 ref. with a dazzling midnight blue dégradé dial featuring the unmistakable darkened edge and a yellow gold 1803 ref. housing a vibrant burgundy Stella dial.

‘Modern times’ demanded new inspirations. 

What makes a timepiece so unique? Possibly its design or rather the precious materials and refined finishing details? Rolex immediately understood and took action, creating something totally new, able to meet the challenging requests of its demanding clients: bespoke dials destined to the Middle East markets, exhibiting printed symbols, inscriptions and jewels… which today are so beloved by collectors throughout the world.

Pictured above, the red Omani Khanjar on green enamel coated dial further enhanced by the baguette-cut diamond, and  the eye-catching geometrical pattern engraved on the champagne coloured dial, with both the date numeral and the applied hour index displayed in Arabic script.

In the mid ’70s, a limited series of 8 pieces only were realized upon special order wearing the 1831 reference. Crafted in platinum and sporting a never seen integrated bracelet, recalling the design we shall be meeting later on, styled by the Day-Date Oysterquartz models. Here above the superlative “Emperor” displaying a burgundy lacquer dial enriched with eight brilliant cut and two baguette-cut diamonds as numerals.

Want to take an inside look? Click through for the brilliant and interesting Philipp Stahl’s Geneva watch auction report recapping the Glamorous Sale.

We will be back with more on this iconic timepiece but for now if you enjoyed this brief story, take your time and head over HERE to explore some preview pages of the “Day-Date, the Presidential Rolex”. You will never look at the Day-Date the same way again.

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